ADHD – leads to obesity?

How medication for hyperactivity might be the real culprit - and possible alternatives.

The study is apparently in – The Journal of Pediatrics reports: “ADHD leads to obesity in adults“.  I am really curious about the whole story here, and not just the results.  As I search the web for information that might explain this further, I find repeat after repeat of the same story…”children who had ADHD are more likely to suffer obesity as an adult“, but why?  One article from channel 12 news states: “its because they lack impulse control and have poor planning skills“, seemed a bit weak for an argument, so I looked deeper.

Research takes me into the kinds of medications offered to children diagnosed with ADHD.  Most of these drugs are psycho-stimulants, but stimulants just the same.  They are: Methylphenidate (Ritalin,Concerta, Metadate, Daytrana),  Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin), Amphetamine-Dextroamphetamine (Adderall), Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat) and Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse).  Described as similar to the stimulants one might take to lose weight, the effects seem to be similar – decreased appetite, nervousness, jitters and sleeplessness, irritability, depression and loss of spontaneity.

So with all of these ‘side effects’, what happens when these kids stop taking their medications, or if they continue on into adulthood?  One study, published in the New York Times last year reported that children who stay on medication long-term have a drastic reduction in benefits received at the onset of taking the drugs, stating: “all of the treatment successes faded over time“.  All of them?  So what happens when a person who is taking stimulants, experiencing a suppression of appetite, stops the stimulant?

Chat rooms and forums all over the web are ‘Ritaled‘ with people quitting their ADHD meds and experiencing weight gain.  So, I wonder, what is the real culprit here -the diagnosis or the treatment?  If it is a well known side-effect to coming off of these medications, then why wouldn’t it be important to report it in a ‘long-term study’?  My real question is what are people to do with this information once ‘informed’?

Would you look at your child, recently diagnosed with ADHD and now, with knowledge of this study,  fear for their future health?  Would you take precautionary steps to make sure they ate well and avoided sugary, fatty foods more than before?  Would you take a look at the medications prescribed for your child and consider alternative approaches to the issue at hand?  These are all very important questions to ask.  Are there alternatives to prescription medication for diagnosed Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity?  If so, what are they?

Actually, a number of alternative methods are reported extremely beneficial to kids and adults diagnosed with ADHD.  One of them is to add omega fatty acids into the diet like those found in cold water fatty fish, especially EPA and DHA which target the development of the brain and nervous system.  A popular study of children 8-12 years of age given omega fatty acid supplements improved their focus and academic performance enormously.

A study published in the Lancet conducted by Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre of the Netherlands unabashedly  proclaims that “Food is the main cause of ADHD“, reporting that around 65% of attention deficit symptoms could be attributed to food allergies – or a hypersensitivity to certain foods.  The study suggests that a diet rich in whole foods, fibers, folate and essential fatty acids were most important to eliminate symptoms.  This would include foods like avocados, beans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, fruit, tuna and salmon, dark leafy greens and asparagus.

Another study mentions middle school students who practice a non-religious form of meditation called TM (transcendental meditation) for 10 minutes twice per day, reduce their stress by over half, resulting in lower ADHD symptoms.  This practice is done by repeating a simple internal mantra for focus.  Now, obviously, not all age groups or children would be well suited to this technique, but it’s an option.

There are also herbal alternatives to the regularly prescribed medications, such as ‘Kid-E-Trac‘ and it’s teen/adult version ‘Mind-Trac‘ by Dr. Christopher.  Both of these formulas contain gingko biloba and gotu kola- which help support increased focus in the brain; valerian and skullcap- for the nerves, as well as a synergistic formula of greens (wheatgrass, alfalfa, barley)  to give needed nourishment to the brain.  There are other formulas found at your natural health stores as well that can offer relief, ask your local natural health care professional for assistance.

Another important factor for not only treatment, but clarification of a proper diagnosis, would be to look at the history of the child (or adult) with said diagnosis.  Often, symptoms are so far reaching that they over lap a number of possibilities including simple food allergies or psychological unrest due to frequent moves, emotional upset or rough disciplinary measures.  Any of these situations could ultimately cause a person to go down the path toward obesity if left unchecked.

Some say that most of our legendary ‘geniuses’ such as Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton would have been classified as Attention Deficit had there been such a term in their time.  My point is, that many of our children today are simply creative minds that do not fit in the regular classroom setting and are being ‘forced’ into complying with a system that does not fit who they are.  I’m not saying there is an easy solution for most families in these cases.  I am suggesting we look at the alternatives and give them voice. I am also suggesting that we not immediately medicate an issue that could have a healthier alternative.  Perhaps if we were to explore the myriad of paths toward balance and good health, we would not see a population of children who need to gain weight to feel protected from their environment.

The point is, ADHD is not an open and shut case.  Those who have been diagnosed have often suffered at the hands of medications either at the onset of the treatment, or years later.  I’m not suggesting that some who have taken their prescriptions have not had success and relief, but I am questioning the method and the end result of a study that seems not to mention anything about drugs as a possible cause of said ‘obesity’.

If ADHD really leads to obesity, as the Journal of Pediatrics suggests, I would like a repeat of those results given the medications used, how long the drugs were taken and their withdrawal experiences.  I believe we owe it to our children to be fully educated before changing their reality with powerful psycho-stimulants.  I have personally witnessed the effects these drugs can have on our youth, and it is not pretty.  Attitudes such as aggression, depression, self-mutilation, dare-devil like behavior and other extreme actions are often taken by a youth who does not know how to cope with the way a drug is making them feel.

Perhaps instead of simply labeling possible future effects of those who have been diagnosed today, we can take a stand to find alternative ways to help these children and their families cope with a disorder (real or misdiagnosed) that may largely be helped through nutrition, care and creativity.




12 Responses to "ADHD – leads to obesity?"

  1. s   May 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    TM actually works with all age groups and any kind of child, Check out the David Lynch Foundation and you will see that this is so, the most stressed people feel the most obvious contrast and benefit but even five year olds of any culture or personality do it, including kids with adhd etc.

  2. Louise Hart   May 21, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Congratulations! A well researched article. There is much research, which suggests that ingesting vitamin D supplements can be beneficial for people experiencing mental health issues. Dietary factors may not “cause” ADHD. However, I am sure that they influence the mental health of those diagnosed with the condition. And the rest of us!


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